Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Students, Go Dutch Collaborate on Lincoln Heights Project

The Center for Sustainable Development  has been collaborating with the GO DUTCH Consortium (GDC) on a semester-long case study project that integrates academics, research, landgrant programs and Dutch expertise to originate comprehensive solutions to a case study. The focus of the case study is the Lincoln Heights neighborhood in Washington, D.C. Go Dutch is a network of firms covering the fields of urbanism, architecture, clean technology, change management and social economic, strategic and financial consulting. 

Since January 2014, representatives from GO DUTCH and participating UDC classes have collaborated on an applied, integrated research project that incorporates principles and practices learned in the traditional course curricula (nutrition and food science, respiratory care, urban sustainability, public policy, architecture). The purpose of this initiative was for students, faculty, and Dutch experts to exchange knowledge and use sustainability in an applied case study scenario.

"Chinese philosopher Lao Tze once said 'Pots are formed from clay, but the empty space within it is the essence of the pot,'" explained Bart Mispelblom Beyer, Chairman of Go Dutch. "In this scenario, the essence of a good functioning neighborhood is the space between urban living rooms and urban corridors, where social interaction takes place."
The interdisciplinary project helps to develop: integration, experiential learning, teamwork, communication, leadership and problem-solving skills, explained Dr. Dwane Jones, Director, Center for Sustainable Development and the UDC lead on the project.

"Interdisciplinary learning is the beauty of this project. We provide a framework for the students to work within," explained Dr. Elgloria Harrison, Assistant to the Dean for Academic Programs & Climate Initiative, CAUSES. "This promotes the growth process."

Located in Ward 7 of the District, Lincoln Heights offers low-income housing east of the Anacostia River. The area has a high crime rate, is food insecure and lacks public access accessibility due to its secluded location (the area is a twenty minute walk from the nearest metro station). Ironically, Lincoln Heights is located in the greenest Ward in the District.

Because the crime rate is a concern, part of the UDC-Go Dutch team's recommendation included safety improvements. "Eyes on the Street" is an initiative that creates neighbor-to-neighbor protection, by people watching the street from their windows. 
To improve accessibility, the student team recommended creating streets in a grid format to increase "connectability" and access. Increasing bike usage would promote exercise; since the area is considered a food desert, obesity and diabetes rates run high. Additional recommendations include creating more handicap ramps and textured crosswalks.

"This project is the ultimate embodiment of CAUSES, in that it uses research to tackle a real-life challenge," explained Dr. Jones. "With the Lincoln Heights project, our students have the rare opportunity to make a difference for their city."

The project was originally set to conclude next month with the student presenting their findings before the District's Office for the Deputy Mayor of Planning and Economic Development and the Department of Housing and Community Development. However, the integrated project will continue next semester and will potentially include a health impact assessment of the neighborhood, if improvements were made.

"While we want these mixed economic communities, how do we do that without displacing current residents?" Dr. Harrison pointed out.

As the students learned, that question is not easily answered.

Read more about the Lincoln Heights renewal in the Washington Post. For more information on the UDC-Go Dutch partnership, contact Dr. Jones at

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